Tens of millions of older Americans who cannot afford dental care — with severe consequences for their overall health, what they eat and even when they smile — may soon get help as Democrats maneuver to add dental benefits to Medicare for the first time in its history.
The proposal, part of the large budget bill moving through Congress, would be among the largest changes to Medicare since its creation in 1965 but would require overcoming resistance from dentists themselves, who are worried that it would pay them too little.
The impact could be enormous for people like Natalie Hayes, 69. Ms. Hayes worked in restaurants, raised a son and managed her health as best she could within her limited means. As she lost her teeth — most of them many years ago and her remaining front ones last fall — she simply lived with it.